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Sunday, December 30, 2012

January - Subliminal


Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior 

by Leonard Mlodinow (2012)                                                                                  


1.  Opening Thoughts
2.  Table of Contents
3.   Further Reviews and Summaries
4. Quotes from the Book

Opening Thoughts

In my latter years I have come to the conclusion that we can either “guess” why we do things or we can discover how God has made us and then try and understand how to align to his design.  This is especially true in regard to how our 3 pounds of grey matter work.  For centuries we have guessed what goes on inside by what we do on the outside.  Only recently have  scientists begun to unlock the mysteries of what happens on the inside.

Leonard Mlodinow is a very good writer.  What is most interesting is that he is not a brain researcher but a physicist with a bent to understand how the mind works.  His research is put into print with both humor and simplicity.  Being a scientist he can plow through the mounds of research and yet distill important findings in a way that is easy to understand for us nonscientists.

As you can see from the Table of Contents he has targeted only a few important new insights to share with us.  In my readings on the mind and brain I have concluded that research shows that our conscious mind consumes less than 10% of our brain power.  So what does the rest of it do?  It has built in programs, I call them mind apps, that are designed to help run our lives at the unconscious level.  As you emerge into this dangerous and sometimes hostile world you come with the apps preloaded.  But the apps, like those on your smart phone, must have information in order to be of any use.  For example you have a mind app that is designed to link you to those you have first contact with upon arrival in this world.  This bonding or imprinting app is available to all animals and ties them (hopefully) to the right mother who will nourish and protect them.  Another app that is ready to receive data and start working is the imitation app.  This one takes a few weeks to kick in but is functional all your life.  It seeks to sync your mind with the minds of those you come into contact with.  This is so that you can fit in with others and understand them.  It also is key to learning how to act in this world.  It can be seen in operation as a baby mimics the silly faces an adult makes as it coos over the little bundle of joy. 

God has hardwired hundreds of these mind apps into the brain.  Science is at the beginning stages of understanding and identifying them.  This books looks at a few of them.  But the mind app is only as good as the information it is fed.  Like my expense report app, it the wrong or bad information is fed into it then it will produce flawed outcomes.  Those flawed outcomes in our lives lead to wrong beliefs, behavior and assumptions.  Paul was spot on when he said in Romans 12 that we should not fill our mind apps with the world’s info, but instead let God’s work realign us and our apps to the Word of God.

Table of Contents

PART I: The Two-tiered Brain

1. The New Unconscious: The hidden role of our subliminal selves . . . what it means when you don’t call your mother

2. Senses Plus Mind Equals Reality: The two-tier system of the brain . . . how you can see something without knowing it

3. Remembering and Forgetting: How the brain builds memories . . . why we sometimes remember what never happened

4. The Importance of Being Social: The fundamental role of human social character . . . why Tylenol can mend a broken heart
 
Part II: The Social Unconscious

5. Reading People: How we communicate without speaking . . . how to know who’s the boss by watching her eyes

6. Judging People by Their Covers: What we read into looks, voice, and touch . . . how to win voters, attract a date, or beguile a female cowbird

7. Sorting People and Things: Why we categorize things and stereotype people . . .what Lincoln, Gandhi, and Che Guevara had in common

8. In-Groups and Out-Groups: The dynamics of us and them . . . the science behind Lord of the Flies

9. Feelings: The nature of emotions . . . why the prospect of falling hundreds of feet onto large boulders has the same effect as a flirtatious smile and a black silk nightgown

10. Self: How our ego defends its honor . . . why schedules are overly optimistic and failed CEOs feel they deserve golden parachutes

Further Reviews and Summaries

- From The Economist
“The unconscious mind”
“Hidden depths – “New thoughts on how the mind works”


“In his latest book, 
“Subliminal ”, Leonard Mlodinow, a theoretical physicist who has been developing a nice sideline in popular science writing, shows how the idea of the unconscious has become respectable again over the past couple of decades. This development has been helped by rigorous experimental evidence of the effects of the subconscious and, especially, by real-time brain-scanning technology that allows researchers to examine what is going on in their subjects’ heads,’” quoting the April 28th edition of The Economist.   Read more 
- From Scientific American:  Read more 

Quotes from the Book (Kindle Edition)

CHAPTER 1 The New Unconscious The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing. —BLAISE PASCALRead more at location 145
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Instead, our brains are made up of a collection of many modules that work in parallel, with complex interactions, most of which operate outside of our consciousness. As a consequence, the real reasons behind our judgments, feelings, and behavior can surprise us.Read more at location 355
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Today, behavioral economists like Caltech’s Antonio Rangel are changing the way economists think by presenting strong evidence that the textbook theories are flawed.Read more at location 361
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CHAPTER 2 Senses Plus Mind Equals Reality The eye that sees is not a mere physical organ but a means of perception conditioned by the tradition in which its possessor has been reared.    —RUTH BENEDICTRead more at location 494
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Today we believe that when you look at your mother-in-law, the image you see is based not only on her optical qualities but also on what is going on in your head—for example, your thoughts about her bizarre child-rearing practices or whether it was a good idea to agree to live next door. Kant felt that empirical psychology could not become a science because you cannot weigh or otherwise measure the events that occur in your brain.Read more at location 509
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The British physiologist and psychologist William Carpenter was one of the most prescient. In his 1874 book Principles of Mental Physiology, he wrote that “two distinct trains of Mental action are carried on simultaneously, one consciously, the other unconsciously,” and that the more thoroughly we examine the mechanisms of the mind, the clearer it becomes “that not only an automatic, but an unconscious actionRead more at location 532
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TODAY WE KNOW that Carpenter’s “two distinct trains of Mental action” are actually more like two entire railway systems. To update Carpenter’s metaphor, we would say that the conscious and unconscious railways each comprise a myriad of densely interconnected lines, and that the two systems are also connected to eachRead more at location 553
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other at various points. The human mental system is thus far more complex than Carpenter’s original picture, but we’re making progress in deciphering its map of routes and stations.Read more at location 555
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According to a textbook on human physiology, the human sensory system sends the brain about eleven million bits of information each second.Read more at location 562
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The actual amount of information we can handle has been estimated to be somewhere between sixteen and fifty bits per second. So if your conscious mind were left to process all that incoming information, your brain would freeze like an overtaxed computer.Read more at location 564
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One of the most fascinating of the studies that neuroscientists have done on the visual system involved a fifty-two-year-old African man referred to in the literature as TN. A tall, strong-looking man, a doctor who, as fate would have it, was destined to become renowned as a patient, TN took the first step on his path to pain and fame one day in 2004 when, while living in Switzerland, he had a stroke that knocked out the left side of a part of his brain called the visual cortex.Read more at location 606
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After the second stroke, doctors did tests to see whether it had rendered TN completely blind, for some of the blind have a small measure of residual sight.Read more at location 628
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The phenomenon exhibited by TN—in which individuals with intact eyes have no conscious sensation of seeing but can nevertheless respond in some way to what their eyes register—is called “blindsight.”Read more at location 683
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Our unconscious doesn’t just interpret sensory data, it enhances it. It has to, because the data our senses deliver is of rather poor quality and must be fixed up in order to be useful. For example, one flaw in the data your eyes supply comes from the so-called blind spot,Read more at location 786
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As I said, in a way, every human mind is a scientist, creating a model of the world around us, the everyday world that our brains detect through our senses. Like our theories of gravity, our model of the sensory world is only approximate and is based on concepts invented by our minds. And like our theories of gravity, though our mental models of our surroundings are not perfect, they usually work quite well.Read more at location 863
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CHAPTER 3 Remembering and Forgetting A man sets himself the task of portraying the world. Through the years he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and people. Shortly before his death, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the image of his face.    —JORGE LUIS BORGESRead more at location 883
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One measure of ToM is called intentionality.13 An organism that is capable of reflecting about its own state of mind, about its own beliefs and desires,Read more at location 1531
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A second-order intentional organism is one that can form a belief about someone else’s state of mind,Read more at location 1534
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If you have third-order intentionality you can go a step further, reasoning about what a person thinks a second person thinks,Read more at location 1537
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And if you are capable of going a level beyond that, of thinking I believe my friend Sanford thinks that my daughter Olivia thinks that his son Johnny thinks she is cute or I believe my boss, Ruth, knows that our CFO, Richard, thinks that my colleague John doesn’t believe her budgets and revenue projections can be trusted, then you’re engaging in fourth-order intentionality, and so on.Read more at location 1538
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Fourth-order intentionality is required to create literature, for writers must make judgments based on their own experiences of fourth-order intentionality,Read more at location 1543
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JAMES’S THEORY OF emotion dominated psychology for a while, but then gave way to other approaches. In the 1960s, as psychology took its cognitive turn, his ideas—now called the James-Lange theory—experienced a new popularity, for the notion that different sorts of data are processed in your brain to create emotions fit nicely into James’s framework.Read more at location 3306
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As the psychologist Jonathan Haidt put it, there are two ways to get at the truth: the way of the scientist and the way of the lawyer. Scientists gather evidence, look for regularities, form theories explaining their observations, and test them. Attorneys begin with a conclusion they want to convince others of and then seek evidence that supports it, while also attempting to discredit evidence that doesn’t. The human mind is designed to be both a scientist and an attorney, both a conscious seeker of objective truth and an unconscious, impassioned advocate for what we want to believe. Together these approaches vie to create our worldview.Read more at location 3628
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The “causal arrow” in human thought processes consistently tends to point from belief to evidence, not vice versa.19Read more at location 3639
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As it turns out, the brain is a decent scientist but an absolutely outstanding lawyer. The result is that in the struggle to fashion a coherent, convincing view of ourselves and the rest of the world, it is the impassioned advocate that usually wins over the truth seeker.Read more at location 3641
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Visual perception, memory, and even emotion are all constructs, made of a mix of raw, incomplete, and sometimes conflicting data. We use the same kind of creative process to generate our self-image. When we paint our picture of self, our attorney-like unconscious blends fact and illusion, exaggerating our strengths, minimizing our weaknesses, creating a virtually Picassoesque series of distortions in which some parts have been blown up to enormous size (the parts we like) and others shrunk to near invisibility. The rational scientists of our conscious minds then innocently admire the self-portrait, believing it to be a work of photographic accuracy. Psychologists call the approach taken by our inner advocate “motivated reasoning.” Motivated reasoning helps us to believe in our own goodness and competence, to feel in control, and to generally see ourselves in an overly positive light. It also shapes the way we understand and interpret our environment, especially our social environment, and it helps us justify our preferred beliefs. Still,Read more at location 3644
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Ambiguity creates wiggle room in what may otherwise be inarguable truth, and our unconscious minds employ that wiggle room to build a narrative of ourselves, of others, and of our environment that makes the best of our fate, that fuels us in the good times, and gives us comfort in the bad.Read more at location 3654
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Recent brain-imaging studies are beginning to shed light on how our brains create these unconscious biases. They show that when assessing emotionally relevant data, our brains automatically include our wants and dreams and desires.29 Our internal computations, which we believe to be objective, are not really the computations that a detached computer would make but, rather, are implicitly colored by who we are and what we are after. In fact, the motivated reasoning we engage in when we have a personal stake in an issue proceeds via a different physical process within the brain than the cold, objective analysis we carry out when we don’t. In particular, motivated reasoning involves a network of brain regions that are not associated with “cold” reasoning, including the orbitofrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex—parts of the limbic system—and the posterior cingulate cortex and precuneus, which are also activated when one makes emotionally laden moral judgments.30 That’s the physical mechanism forRead more at location 3735
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Motivated reasoning won’t work if it stretches credulity too far, for then our conscious minds start to doubt and the self-delusion game is over. That there are limits to motivated reasoning is critically important, for it is one thing to have an inflated view of your expertise at making lasagna and it is quite another to believe you can leap tall buildings in a single bound. In order for your inflated self-image to serve you well, to have survival benefits, it must be inflated to just the right degree and no further. Psychologists describe this balance by saying that the resulting distortion must maintain the “illusion of objectivity.” The talent we are blessed with in this regard is the ability to justify our rosy images of ourselves through credible arguments, in a way that does not fly in the face of obvious facts.Read more at location 3746


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